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james 02-19-2009 10:28 PM

Whole grain crust texture
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This isn't my best photo, but I am seeing a consistent pattern with whole grain bread that I am hoping you can help with. The crust on my whole grain breads is definitely different than my whole wheat breads -- including my Miche with whole wheat and whole rye. It isn't just that it is more crunchy, but the crust is very thick and almost as though it has lots of tiny holes. It definitely does not have the elasticity of whole wheat.

This loaf has oats, rye, corn meal, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds at about 30% on a 50/50 white and whole wheat flour recipe.

I guess my question is -- why is the grain crust so different?

I will post another photo tomorrow with better light showing slices.

CanuckJim 02-20-2009 06:46 AM

Re: Whole grain crust texture

First reaction is grain sugars; there's much more of them in rye flour. They tend to congregate in the crust, so you'll get a much thicker, chewier bite than other breads. The one thing you might try is more steam for longer than normal.


james 02-20-2009 08:33 AM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
Nice idea. Thanks Jim -- I'll give that a try. I will post a crumb photo today. The loaf is crunchy and pretty dense, but it's nice. It's like an entire meal in a slice of toast.

texassourdough 02-21-2009 08:46 AM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
Hi James!

I don't think the sugar in rye is it though it could be. Looks to me like your description of "holes" is right and that the crust is drying out. You have a lot of stuff in the bread to poke holes in the gluten. Rather interestingly you seem to still be getting good rise so I assume your kneading and gluten development are good. Your gash looks GREAT.

The crust looks a lot like it you rolled it in rye at the end... (something I do on my 100% rye breads) Was it fully mixed in earlier? (I presume so, but...feel I should verify.)

I have a feeling the crust is an ingredient characteristic related mainly to rye and the relatively low flour content. What Bakers Percentage are you at?

Look forward to hearing how increasing the steam does.

Good Luck!

egalecki 02-21-2009 09:31 AM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
So how do you increase the steam? Do you spray water for a longer period, or would you put a water source in the oven, like a reallly hot cast iron pan on the floor with hot water in it?

I usually spray back to front, slowly, until it's rolling out of the opening. Once, before I'm getting loaves ready to go in, and then once immediately before they go in. Could I put them in and then spray again, and slam the door on quickly?

CanuckJim 02-21-2009 10:33 AM

Re: Whole grain crust texture

I steam the oven before loading and shut the door tightly. Once the loaves are loaded, I position to the door so it can be shut very quickly, then spray above the loaves until you can see a fog in the chamber. Normally, I'd vent the steam half way through the bake time, but James might want to leave it in there another few minutes to assure complete spring before the crust begins to set.


AnnieMacD 02-21-2009 12:13 PM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
Jim, Is this a sourdough or yeasted loaf and how long was it proofing? It looks a pretty great loaf to me. I concur with Jay about the gluten getting a bashing. Another possible reason that you have a thicker crust is that the outer skin of the bread formed a crust if it had a long proof and wasn't airtight. I leave my loaves in bannetons (linen lined baskets) and the soudoughs can be proofing for 3 - 4 hours. If the 'skin' dries out you can get a thicker and harder crust in the finished loaf. Loaded dough takes longer to rise, so....

As someone mentioned steaming the oven, on a similar topic, has anyone noticed the difference in moisture loss between conventional and WFO loaves? I have found that when baking in the electric oven I scale dough to 880g to get a 800g loaf. In the WFO I need to scale to 940g - this is a lot of dough, guys! This applies to tinned bread as well as hearth bread. Steaming the oven doesn't seem to make much difference.

james 02-21-2009 01:18 PM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
Hi Annie,

It's a sourdough loaf that proofed overnight in a bowl under a towel. I folded it twice the next day, shaped the loaf with the complicated Hamelman method, and proofed the loaf for a couple of hours in a linen lined banneton. The house was cold, so I used the proof setting on my oven (84F). It wasn't air tight -- just a linen towel on top.

Maybe it is the air, the time or the slightly warmer proofing temperature. Also, the proofing setting blows a little convection air. Maybe this is it. The loaf is nice, but the crust is seriously crunchy.

Should I be using plastic wrap on top of the banneton?

This loaf was in a conventional oven between two big FB pizza stones, using a cast iron pan and boiling water for steam. I used convection.

The WFO is baking out an extra 60g of water out of each loaf? That's a lot of water in the oven for steam. I have to test that.

Thanks for the help!

james 02-21-2009 01:38 PM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
1 Attachment(s)
Here is the crumb. Lot's of stuff going on in there.

Can you tell that the crust is a little dry?


AnnieMacD 02-21-2009 02:10 PM

Re: Whole grain crust texture
james, that is one beautiful loaf! To me the crust looks perfect but understand if you think it too hard.

When I use bannetons I always either place each one in its own big plastic bag and tuck the end under, or put them on a rack and cover the whole thing with a plastic cover. Next time, just try the bag and see if that helps. The bannetons allow air circulation through the basketwork and the dough could dry out. How about making two loaves and do a side-by-side comparison?

I find that the crusts in the WFO are much softer than in the electric oven in any case.


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